IHS/Tribal Health Program to Collaborate With VA on Helping Native American Veterans

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(Left ro right, front row) Rudy Kopfler (director Veterans Affairs (VA)-Eastern Health Care, Topeka); Steve Ortiz (PBPN chairman); Kevin Meeks (director Oklahoma Area Indian Health Services (IHS).  (Back row) Mary Culley (tribal government relations specialist Southern Plains and Southeast Region Department of VA); Rajeev Trehan (chief of staff VA-Eastern Health Care,Topeka); Bill Thorne (PBPN Health Center administrator); Will McClammy (tribal outreach coordinator-VA Eastern Health Care,Topeka); Nancy Diacon (associate chief nurse-VA Eastern Health Care,Topeka) and Vivien Olsen (PBPN tribal attorney).

MAYETTA:  Plans are in the works for health care services to be expanded to Native American veterans under a new reimbursement agreement plan that will allow veterans to receive medical care at Indian Health Service/Tribal Health Program facilities.  Previously, Native American veterans have had to rely on only getting their health care needs met at Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers which are sometimes hard to reach for those who live on reservations or in rural communities.

A meeting was held yesterday between leaders from the IHS,  the VA, and the PBPN who met  face-to-face for the first time at the Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Administration Medical Center in Topeka to go over a new Local Implementation Plan being designed for veterans in the Eastern Kansas Health Care System.  The Prairie Band Potawatomi Health Center is one of the Tribal Health Program (THP) facilities actively involved in the Eastern Kansas Health Care System and PBP representatives were there to add input on the new THP agreement template being proposed along with VA and IHS leaders in the Eastern Kansas Health Care System.

The reimbursement agreement that focuses on increasing coordination, collaboration, and the sharing of resources between the VA and IHS/THP to help Native American veterans began developing in 2010 and is now in the implementation phase across the Nation.  More follow-up meetings are planned in the future to complete all the components of the plan.